Moser, Jefferson Franklin (1848-1934)
Papers of Rear Admiral Jefferson Franklin Moser, of Slatington, Pennsylvania and San Francisco, California, 1869-1923

Collection consisting of 137 documents, comprising appointments and commissions, circulars, incoming letters and copies of letters, instructions and orders, telegrams, and statements of accounts, all dated 10 April 1869 to 1 November 1923. Bound in an oversize hard-bound volume of tipped in and loose documents titled "Navy Orders &c.," bound chronologically. Album has leather spine, cloth backed boards, front board of album detached, spine chipped, binding worn at extremities, scuffed and rubbed. Mostly written in ink, some printed, some printed forms filled out in ink, in legible hands.

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Rear Admiral Jefferson Franklin Moser

             Lt. Comdr. (later Rear Admiral) Jefferson Franklin Moser, USN, was born at Allentown, Pennsylvania, May 3, 1848, the son John B. and Henrietta (Beidleman) Moser. He entered the U.S. Naval Academy, then at Newport, Rhode Island, on September 29, 1864 and graduated as Midshipman at Annapolis, Maryland (Academy moved in 1865) on June 2, 1868. He was promoted to Ensign 1869; Master, 1870; Lieut. 1872; and Lieut. Commander in 1893.

     Moser married Nancy McDowell on 20 October 1874, at Slatington, Pennsylvania, which is where they made their home while he was in the service. Moser retired as a Captain in 1904, upon his own application, after 40 years service.

     He was for many years employed on special duty under the Government on exploring expeditions for inter-oceanic canal routes on the Isthmus of Darien and Panama and in Nicaragua; also on the U.S. Coast and Geodetic Survey and the U.S. Fish Commission.  He commanded the U.S. Bureau of Fisheries (later the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service) steamer Albatross during cruises in Alaskan waters in the summers of 1897 and 1898. A report of this work was published in 1899. The hydrographic notes and sketches of harbors and anchorages made on these cruise were published by the U.S. Coast and Geodetic Survey in 1899.

     In 1900-1901, Moser on the Albatross, visited most of the canneries and important salmon streams on the Alaskan coast from Dixon Entrance to the Nushagak River on Bristol Bay. He made sketch maps of the streams with their tributary lakes, added to Lt. Comdr. Z. L. Tanner's 1890 chart of Bristol Bay, and made reconnaissance charts of Alitak Bay, the southwestern coast of Kodiak Island, and Afognak Bay. He also made a topographic reconnaissance of the coast between Alsek River Delta and Yakutat Bay. Reports of these trips were published in 1902. Moser is credited with having first reported and nameed many places and features in Alaska. A number of features have been named for Moser.

     The second USS Albatross, often seen as USFC Albatross in scientific literature citations, was an iron-hulled, twin-screw steamer in the United States Navy and reputedly the first research vessel ever built especially for marine research. The Albatross was laid down at Wilmington, Delaware, by Pusey and Jones in March 1882; launched on 19 August 1882, and commissioned on 11 November 1882, with Lt. Zera L. Tanner in command. Tanner, who had superintended the ship's design and construction, would command Albatross, a Navy-manned vessel assigned to the United States Fish Commission, a civilian government agency, for nearly 12 years.

     While in command of the Albatross Moser was appointed by the President a member of the International Fur Seal Commission, and in this capacity visited Eastern Siberia and the Karile Islands. While in command of the Albatross and engaged upon Oceanographic research, the exploration of the salmon streams and lake system of Alaska and the exploration of the South Sea, he was under the direction of Alexander Agassiz. During the Spanish-American War, Moser was in command of the Albatross and Mosquito fleet on the West Coast and later commanded the Bennington.

     After retiring from the military in 1904, Moser became the General Superintendent of the Alaska Packers Association of San Francisco, during which he had charge of a large fleet of fishing steamers and the largest fleet of deep sea sailing vessels in the world.  He belonged to the Army & Navy Club (Washington, DC) and the Bohemian Club (San Francisco). He was a fellow of American Association for the Advancement of Science, and a member of the National Geographic Society, the American Fisheries Society, and the Society of American Wars. He was also the author of "The Salmon and Salmon Fisheries of Alaska," 1897 and "Alaska Salmon, 1900-1901." In his later years he lived at Alameda, California, with an office in San Francisco. Moser died on 11 October 1934, at Alameda and was buried at Arlington Cemetery in Virginia.


     One of Moser's correspondents is Thomas Corwin Mendenhall (1841 -1924), an auto-didact American physicist and meteorologist. Mendenhall was born in Hanoverton, Ohio and became principal of the local primary school in 1858. He formalized his teaching qualifications at Southwest Normal School in 1861 with an Instructor Normalis qualification.  He taught at a number of high schools, gaining an impressive reputation as a teacher and educator until 1873 when, although lacking conventional academic credentials, he was appointed professor of physics and mechanics at the Ohio Agricultural and Mechanical College. The College ultimately became Ohio State University, Mendenhall being the first member of the original faculty.  In 1878, on the recommendation of Edward S. Morse, he was recruited to help the modernization of Meiji Era Japan as one of the o-yatoi gaikokujin (hired foreigners), serving as visiting professor of physics at Tokyo Imperial University. In connection with this appointment he founded a meteorological observatory in which systematic observations were made during his residence in Japan. From measurements using a Kater's pendulum of the force of gravity at the sea level and at the summit of Mount Fuji, Mendenhall deduced a value for the mass of the Earth that agreed closely with that which Francis Baily had obtained in England by another method. He also made a series of elaborate measurements of the wavelengths of the solar spectrum by means of a large spectrometer. He also became interested in earthquakes while in Japan, and was one of the founders of the Seismological Society of Japan (SSJ). During his time in Japan, he also gave public lectures on various scientific topics to general audiences in temples and in theaters.  Returning to Ohio in 1881, Mendenhall was instrumental in developing the Ohio State Meteorological Service. He devised a system of weather signals for display on railroad trains. This method became general throughout the United States and Canada. He became professor at the US Signal Corps in 1884, introducing of systematic observations of lightning, and investigating methods for determining ground temperatures. He was the first to establish stations in the United States for the systematic observation of earthquake phenomena. Resigning in 1886, Mendenhall took up the presidency of the Rose Polytechnic Institute in Terre Haute, Indiana before becoming superintendent of the U.S. Coast and Geodetic Survey in 1889. During his time as superintendent, he issued the Mendenhall Order and oversaw the consequent transition of the United States' weights and measures from the customary system, based on that of England, to the metric system. Mendenhall remained a strong proponent for the official adoption of the metric system all his life. Also, as superintendent of the U.S. Coast and Geodetic Survey, he was also responsible for defining the exact national boundary between the United States (Alaska) and Canada. Mendenhall was president of the Worcester Polytechnic Institute from 1894 until 1901 when he immigrated to Europe.  He returned to the United States in 1912. He was appointed to the Board of Trustees of Ohio State University in 1919 and remained a trustee until his death at Ravenna, Ohio in 1924.

Description of Collection:

     Documents include the service records of Rear Admiral Jefferson Franklin Moser (1848-1934) for the time period just after the Civil War until his retirement. The collection begins with an 1869 order to report to Capt. W. H. McComb for duty on the U.S.S. Kenosha and continues with apparently every assignment, order and commission for the rest of Moser's career. He rises from an ensign up to a Lt. Commander. He occasionally is summoned to appear at various court martial proceedings as a witness. He was once ordered to attend torpedo school at Newport and sent to Annapolis to study the French and Spanish Languages. He appears to have retired in 1904, and was brought back in World War I for semi-active duty on the West Coast as inspector and as a member of a Courts of Inquiry.  Moser was an officer on two expeditions to Nicaragua in 1872 and 1875 to survey a route for a trans-oceanic canal. His orders of 1872, signed by Commander A.F Crossman, are included in this collection.  Moser did many years of work commanding the research ships A.D. Bache and Albatross in US Fish Commission research, including commercially important work in surveying Pacific salmon industry and fur seal populations. Several documents relate to this service, including one asking him if he would like to be detached from the Navy to work at the Smithsonian.  At the outbreak of World War One, Moser, who had retired to San Francisco and entered the salmon cannery business, was recalled to duty to act as inspector of ships on the West Coast and oversaw construction of facilities at San Pedro, California, as well one document concerns him sitting on a Boards of Inquiry for a 1919 investigation of a guard at a POW camp on Mare Island where the shooting and wounding of a prisoner took place.


     There are approximately 34 letters in the collection of 137 items and they concern various aspects of Moser's life, such as, Moser paying off his accounts with the U.S. Coast Geodetic Survey Office before moving on to his next assignment; Moser receiving a response from the Navy Department about his wanting to transfer to the Corps of Civil Engineers; four letters of recommendation for Moser to the Secretary of the Navy from his former commanding officers; a letter of response suggesting that Moser applied for a term of duty at the Smithsonian Institution; letter from the curator of the Smithsonian acknowledging receipt of several species of insects collected by Moser from his trip to Nicaragua in 1873; letter from the U.S. Commission of Fish and Fisheries commissioner apprising Moser of his knowledge that Moser would like to command the Albatross if needed; letter allowing a letter of recommendation from T. C. Mendenhall be allowed to be placed in Moser's file; 6 manuscript page letter from Thomas C. Mendenhall, discussing the letter of recommendation he sent to the Navy on behalf of Moser, as well as catching Moser up to speed on what he (Mendenhall) has been up to; three letters concerning his insurance policies with Security Mutual Life Insurance Company of Binghamton, New York; letter concerning the "retired officers" list and how one has to keep the Navy informed of their whereabouts; a letter from a fellow officer, talks about the Alaska Packers Association; and approximately 20 letters dealing with Moser's activities after he retired from the military in 1904 and when he was recalled during World War One, such as  including sitting on a board of inquiry for a case where a sentry shot and wounded a prisoner, as well as the general affairs of the prison at Mare Island; several later letters are retained copies of Moser's letters, one shows him volunteering his services if needed (he's retired) due to the troubles along the Mexican border in 1914. There are also letters requesting Moser to proceed to San Francisco without delay when America enters World War One, where he was to establish a measured mile course at San Pedro (CA), then inspect vessels of the San Pedro Section, 12th Naval District Force; then go to San Diego and inspect Headquarters of the San Diego Section 12th Naval District Force and vessels, then to Los Angeles, where he would do similar duty. By 15 June 1919 he was finally detached from duty and officially retired once again.